Survivals of Roman Religion

By Gordon J. Laing | Go to book overview

XX. ADONIS AND THE CRADLE OF JESUS

THE CULT of Adonis was known to the Romans at least as early as the Augustan age, as is shown by Ovid's reference,1 and there are a number of allusions to it in the later imperial period. The Hellenized form in which it reached Rome seems to indicate that it was introduced from some Greek site rather than from Byblos in Phoenicia where it originated. Of it we have in all probability a survival in the worship of the cradle of Christ in Catholic Churches on Christmas Eve. For the rite as celebrated in such churches as S. Maria Maggiore in Rome goes back to the adoration of the cave in Bethlehem where Christ was born. The institution of the practice there is as early as the time of Constantine, and we have Origen's testimony that almost any one in Bethlehem could point out the scene of the birth. But this cave had had earlier religious associations. It was the place where

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1
Ars Amatoria, I. 75.

-141-

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